ORGULLO LATINOReading time: 3 minutes
Some call it "green gold" – but to me, it has always been aguacate.
For me, as for so many Latinos, avocados – or aguacates – were a staple of most meals growing up.
They served as the butter for every sandwich, the topping to every taco, and the humble side for a range of dishes spanning morning, noon, and night.
I also remember the light-skinned variety, pellejo, being eaten whole, with the skin left on, and heard anecdotes of people using them as an ingredient for facials and to add shine to their hair.
Not wanting to waste them, my abuela would even plant the seeds once we'd finished off our meal.
In short, avocados are nothing new.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered later in life that "avocado" had become one of the most-searched words on the internet. Throughout 2016, it was racking up close to 50,000 searches per month in the US alone, according to Google Analytics.
Meanwhile, colorful photos of smashed avocados atop sourdough toast started to flood my social media feed, as it seemingly became a must-have ingredient in brunch cultures from Australia to the UK. Between 2004 and 2013, imports of avocados to Canada reportedly rose by 300%.
I was pretty pleased to see that what I had always considered an everyday ingredient was taking the world by storm; and, I must admit, a little startled when some started to believe it was an Australian discovery.
But how did avocados become so popular?
Superbowl ads & the rise of healthy living
There are a few different factors behind the avocado's fame outside of Latin America.
One of the most significant is the global trend towards healthy lifestyles. As well as being delicious, avocados offer a number of properties that complement a well-rounded diet, including oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid (also known as "healthy fat").
They are also packed with nutrients, from magnesium to potassium to vitamin C, while being high in fiber. These health-boosting qualities have made them incredibly popular at a time when more and more people are paying greater attention to what they eat.
It's also come at a time when veganism is on the rise: according to recent estimates, 6% of Australia's population now identify as "vegan" and, in the last decade, Australians following plant-based diets have increased by about 50%.
Avocados' popularity in the US, meanwhile, skyrocketed in 2015 thanks in part to a Super Bowl ad. It promoted Mexico's famous guacamole with nachos as a healthy snack. According to one importer, after the ad aired, weekly sales of aguacates in the US suddenly exceeded 50 million pounds for the first time.
This was helped by the fact that, in the late 1990s, the US government lifted restrictions on imports of avocados from Mexico. Today, 90% of avocados in the US are from Mexico.
As well as increasing the number of avocados in circulation, it helped elevate Mexican cuisine across the country, from food trucks to Michelin-starred restaurants, all of which had avocados at their center.
For those who had never experienced true guacamole before with avocados from Central America, it opened up a new range of possibilities – and, naturally, attracted a legion of loyal aficionados.
Aguacate is ours – but we're happy to share
Despite all this, aguacate is still a Latino product in terms of not only origin, but also production and culinary reach.
In 2020, Australia's production statistics placed it in 20th place worldwide, with less than 200,000 tons of aguacates produced. Mexico, on the other hand, produced almost 2,400,000 tons in the same year.
Indeed, the bulk of the world's aguacates is produced in Latin America. In addition to Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Peru also produce the fruit. And each country has its traditional dishes that incorporate it.
In Mexico, guacamole is one of our most famous dishes and perfect for dipping. In Venezuela, aguacate forms the base of guasacaca; and in Chile, you can find completos with ketchup, mayonnaise, and aguacate.
Brazil is an even more curious case because, unlike the rest of the continent, aguacate is not associated with salty dishes, but sweet ones. So it is very common to find smoothies, mousse, and ice cream made from aguacate.
In short, the aguacate is very much a Latino fruit, of which we are very proud and happy to share with the world. Just don't tell us it's Australian!